Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sometimes on Sundays?

Part 2 (Sunday evening)

Then just when you might be wondering whether Sunday church, or indeed church as institution has any future at all, you get a day like today which was everything I love...

It began with the unlikely pleasure of an 8.30 BCP Eucharist at church on the hill. I'm not a morning person, and though I love C17 literature, the Book of Common Prayer is rarely my preferred vehicle for worship - but today it was just right. Since my predecessor departed (well over 2 years ago) church on the hill has gone without a morning service on the 1st Sunday of the month to enable us to time the All Age Communion in the valley at a happier hour for families who would really rather spend their Sunday morning in pyjamas. The theory was that congregation from the hill would come down to join those in the valley, but they are a group that likes their worship calm and ordered for the most part - and while All Age Communion is many things, most of them positive, calm and ordered are nowhere on the scene. So, from today the hill folk have a Sunday morning service every week..and I have to say that a said BCP service works a treat there. We gathered in the choir, and just worshipped without fuss or anxiety...and it was lovely. One of the happiest experiences I've had in that church since my arrival. Now to work out what it was that enabled genuine community there this morning, and how to transfer it to the Parish Communion, where God squeezes in as best God can.

Down in the valley, we had the baptism of three children from a rather lovely family who have become regulars over the past few months. E attends Valley Church School, and her little sister is at the playgroup that meets in our church hall, so I really do know them quite well...which made proceedings stress free and enjoyable for everyone. When I asked if they wanted to be baptised, the answer was a squeal of excitement and a pretty convincing hug...but though their baptism was a joy, it wasn't the absolute high spot of my morning. That came courtesy of H, for whom I conducted a naming ceremony in accordance with his father's African traditions, when he was just a week old. That was almost 6 months ago now, and today when his parents brought him up the altar rail for a blessing, his response to my post-scripted reminder
"Jesus loves you very much, you know" was a smile of such piercing beauty that I basked in its blessing for the rest of the morning.

Good conversations over coffee (it's so lovely not to have to charge out the door for the 11.00 on the hill once a month at least) and I even had time to go for a walk in the church-yard, where I had a long and God filled conversation with someone tending a grave. Suspect that loitering in the churchyard ought to be a non negotiable part of my timetable - though it's hard to decide what else I don't do, in order to fit it in.

This afternoon was very church-filled too,as a new colleague was licensed to a well-to-do neighbouring parish, which prides itself on well conducted catholic worship very much in the mould of St M's, Ch K (one influential priest served both congregations in turn, so it's not altogether surprising). FabBishop was joined by +Mary, from our new link diocese of El Camino Real in California, and great was the joyful ceremonial. It was good to revisit a licensing service one year on from my own and to remember again the truth in the Bishop's words, spoken after he has invited the new priest to "receive the cure of souls that is both yours and mine".
"Receive it confidently
Serve Christ joyfully.
Put your trust in God.
He is faithful."

So much evidence of that today - I wouldn't have missed it for anything. In no hurry to abandon Sunday church after all...though still considering how to foster genuine community.

1 comment:

Song in my Heart said...

Fostering community is something I think about too, though perhaps on a different scale and without such an obvious leadership role.

What does community mean to the group of people in which you want to encourage and foster community? Are you working toward the same things? How can you find out?

Is this something you can encourage and foster by obvious and deliberate instruction, or more something that has to be shown by example? I ask that because for years people admonished me to be more hopeful, more positive, but nothing seemed to make it stick like someone else genuinely hoping on my behalf and saying so in small ways, the smallest things--"I hope you sleep well," or "I hope things get easier soon," or "I hope the appointment goes alright," as if it were the most natural thing in the world to hope that for anyone. And now that I've been infected it does seem to come quite naturally. Maybe welcome and community work in similar ways, by contagion rather than conscious effort.

Clearly you recognise some things that work. And there's a lot to be said for community as being the work of turning up when it doesn't seem to be working, turning up for the days when nobody seems to have kind word for anyone else and the only babies present cry the entire time and you could almost join their lament, being there on the days when you've worked long and hard to put together an order of service that will be meaningful and accessible and beautiful and only a handful of people come and they don't seem to get what it's all about, being there when one funeral follows on the heels of another and the printer breaks and someone gets into a panic about swine 'flu. And maybe the good things about today are the fruits of the seeds you planted those other times.

I hope you have more Sundays like this one.